A New Zealand Catholic bioethics centre has told politicians that there has never been a more dangerous time in this country to make assisted suicide or euthanasia available.The Nathaniel Centre sounded this  warning in its submission to an end of life inquiry being conducted by Parliament’s Health Select Committee.

The 159-paragraph submission’s conclusion acknowledged that euthanasia and assisted suicide “make sense from within a particular narrative about the person and society; that
is, one that reflects a ‘functionalist’ understanding of the human person”.

But the issue is complex, with broad ramifications, and so should not be decided “on the emotions of a few hard cases”, the Nathaniel Centre stated.

The conclusion stressed the importance of understanding the context in which people make personal choices.

The current New Zealand context is characterised “by ‘functionalism’, increasing ageism that is manifesting itself in growing elder abuse”, “an increase in social isolation of the elderly,
and fear of disability”.

The submission cited those factors as meaning “in our view, there has never been a more dangerous time to make suicide and/or euthanasia more easily available”.

It stated that the answer to the “existential suffering that many people experience . . . is not to make it easier for people to end their lives, but to continue to improve access to palliative
care for all New Zealanders”.

The submission challenged MPs to be brave enough not to go along with so-called majority opinion.

The Nathaniel Centre believes that when more people become aware of the complexities of the argument and issues surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide, “the less likely they
are to support it”.

It also warned about the inadequacy of any proposed safeguards and warned that overseas experience shows that “any law contains within itself the seeds of its own expansion”.

“It is our informed view that when all of the risks are objectively assessed and weighed up, any perceived benefits for a small minority of persons would be far outweighed by far larger
numbers being exposed to the very real dangers of a premature death.”

The inquiry was instituted after Parliament received a petition from Maryan Street and 8974 others that public attitudes be investigated about legalising medically assisted dying in the event of terminal illness or an irreversible condition that makes life unbearable.

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